Michael Sommer, who somewhat surprisingly started his career as a comedy writer for Ed Gardner's "Archie's Tavern" on the NBC Radio Network and later became an advisor to many American presidential candidates, is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
In 2006, as part of his continuing research on the impact of the internet and its revolutionary uses for campaigning and fundraising, Sommer helped to found The Journal of E-Government.
The periodical followed his internationally used 2003 text, co-written with his wife, Dr. Veronika Vis-Sommer, and Dr. Gregory Curtin, The World of E-Government (Haworth Press). In 2003 and 2004, the Sommers served as principal researchers for the United Nations' first two surveys of the implementation of electronic government activities by all its 192 member countries.
The Sommers as a journalistic team began their research and writing on these subjects on the invitation of several of America's leading universities. In 2000, they were both appointed Visiting Scholars at the Shorenstein Center of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This was followed by a two-year appointment as Visiting Fellows in History at Yale University. Visiting Scholar appointments followed in the Department of History at Columbia University, and a two-year appointment followed as Visiting Scholars in both History and Political Science at Stanford University. Most recently, they have undertaken most of their research and writing as Visiting Scholars at the University of California at Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.
Both Sommers received internationally coveted appointments as Leon Feuchtwanger Memorial Writing Fellows at the University of Southern California, site of the Feuchtwanger Papers, which seeks to honor the great German novelist and Noble Prize candidate in literature.
They twice received Federal appointments as Visiting Fellows in National Security and Politics at the East-West Center, Honolulu where they began an investigation of the impact of information technology on China, scheduled for completion in late 2008.
While serving as political advisors, the Sommers have consulted in the campaigns of nine U.S. Presidents or presidential candidates, Republicans and Democrats, as well as three Prime Ministers of Great Britain, and three Chancellors of Germany.
Michael Sommer has served as a political advisor or broadcast or print journalist covering the campaigns of U.S. Presidents for many years. He was a speech writer or campaign strategy advisor in the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Edward Kennedy. He was part of the foreign policy presidential advisory team for Senator John F. Kennedy, working with Governor Chester Bowles of Connecticut. He was a member of the advisory team for President Lyndon Johnson with the task of winning the California presidential primary for the President and successfully doing so, working with LBJ's Senior California Advisor, James Keane. Sommer was appointed to the "Brain Trust" of the Presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern by campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz; ironically, this earned him a place on one of President Nixon's "Enemies Lists" and he was thereupon audited by the Internal Revenue Service, with no adverse finding. He was appointed a speech writer and campaign strategist in the Presidential campaign of President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Mondale by campaign advisor Richard Moe. While he did some advising in the presidential campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he was with him on the night he was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, while serving as producer for ABC Network Television News' coverage of Kennedy's successful California primary victory on June 5, 1968. He served as a ABC Network Television News field producer for the coverage of the successful presidential campaign of President Ronald Reagan. He served as a speech writer for the 1988 Presidential campaign of Senator Edward Kennedy, appointed by campaign advisor Frank Mankiewicz.
For several years, both Sommers were Senior Partners of Sheinkopf Ltd., New York City, the firm that created and produced the television spots for the successful 1996 campaign of President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
During the 1990's, the Sommers formed a partnership with Pierre Salinger, former Press Secretary to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, to undertake special international public affairs projects.
Michael Sommer has been a frequent speaker on American presidential campaigns for the U.S. State Department.
He has served as a Visiting Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Corporate and Public Affairs, Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K. where he began to serve as a senior political commentator for The Journal of Public Affairs.
In 1989, the Sommers co-founded Berlin Associates, a public policy firm that advised European political leaders and major political parties. In that capacity, they advised all three major political parties in Great Britain and both major political parties in Germany.
The couple were among the first Americans asked for advice by the top staff of Soviet Prime Minister Gorbachev to begin exploratory talks on the first cooperative trade deals with America.
They have served as guest commentators for many newspapers and magazines, including The Los Angeles Times, Seattle Weekly, The Houston Chronicle, Paris Match, and The Jordan Times. They have written and commented upon a wide range of subjects for newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and radio and television networks in the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. Their research has appeared in Newsweek and The Washington Post, among many other publications, and they have been commentators on breaking news and feature stories on CNN, MSNBC, and many of the world's major television networks.
They have also written widely on the interplay between the media and terrorism, the first Chinese manned space missions and, more recently on bioterrorism for The Los Angeles Times, and are currently writing an investigating series on international cyber-terrorism.
Michael Sommer's pioneering research on terrorism and the media and his organizational activities on anti-terrorism were first honored by the government of Italy, which was among the first countries to have serious adverse experiences with terrorism.
As an American pioneer in anti-terrorism research and preventive measures, he helped to organize the first U.S. Conference on Media and Terrorism for the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration under a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and many of America's major law enforcement agencies, in 1979 at the DePaul University Conference.
Here, while addressing many of America's top law enforcement officials, he was among the first journalists and presidential advisors to warn of and take seriously potential terrorist threats to America, more than 20 years before 9/11.
He helped to write and launch the first internationally-used textbook Terrorism, Media, and the Law, edited by Abraham H. Miller (Transnational Publishers).
Michael Sommer has won or been co-winner of 19 prestigious national and local awards in journalism and broadcasting, including the George Foster Peabody Award, two local Emmy Awards, eight California Associated Press Awards for investigative journalism, the Los Angeles Press Club Award for broadcast commentary, and the Thomas Alva Edison Award for science writing.
While News Director of KABC Talk Radio, Los Angeles, he won two Golden Mike Awards for broadcast commentary and two other Golden Mikes were awarded under his news direction. He won the California Newspaper Association Award as publisher and editor-in-chief of The Irvine World News for "the best middle-sized newspaper in California."
After a bill he wrote with his friend, California Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, for a State Ombudsman failed to pass the California Legislature for the second time, Michael Sommer successfully founded and became America's first broadcast ombudsman at studios of KABC Radio, ABC's flagship radio in Los Angeles. Over a four year period, he and his staff successfully resolved more than 120,000 citizen complaints against government agencies and businesses and saved consumers millions of dollars. He successfully helped to create Ombudsmen in four U.S. states, in the consumer division of the Federal government and in Fortune 500 corporations, including the Chrysler Corporation. He is currently writing on the potential impact of an Ombudsman for the People's Republic of China.
Michael Sommer's governmental career began as a senate investigator for the California State Senate Committee on Housing for the Elderly and Minorities, chaired by Senate Pro Tem Hugh Burns (D-Fresno). His investigative work led the committee to cite and suggest remedial legislation for many housing injustices against the elderly of minorities. This assignment led to his undertaking an article for Frontier magazine on the subject, which, in turn, led to his wider investigation for California Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown during his first gubernatorial campaign, again resulting in remedial legislation. His investigation of the denial of the constitutional rights of minorities resulted in his taking part in the rewriting of some of California's then racist housing laws.
In original broadcast programming, he helped to create the Talk Radio and News Talk radio formats, the consumer reporter, and the television docudrama, now world broadcasting staples. As a columnist for the Radio and Television News Directors Association, he successfully campaigned for the First Amendment right of non-commercial broadcasters to editorialize.
Michael Sommer holds an A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley, a M.S. from U.C.L.A., and a Ph.D. in telecommunications, information theory, and communication from the University of Southern California where he became a member of the faculty and was twice voted an Outstanding Professor. He attended both the U.C.L.A. School of Law and the University of California's Hastings College of Law.
While in Washington, D.C., he was on the journalism faculty of the University of Maryland, College Park. He won the Distinguished Teaching Award of all campuses of the California State University, the youngest professor to do so. He has served as a Visiting Professor at several university campuses throughout the world, including appointments as Visiting Professor of Political Science, Criminal Justice, and Journalism at Seattle University and Visiting Professor of American Studies at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
In national competition, he was selected as one of the nation's most promising broadcast journalists and won the CBS News Fellowship to undertake graduate study in sociology at Columbia University.
The Sommers have jointly served as Lady Jane Franklin Visiting Scholars at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and Research Scholars at Cardiff University. They were Research Scholars at the Gramsci Institute, Rome and were Visiting Scholars in Politics at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
The Sommers have been guests of the leaders and governments of France (twice), Germany, Russia (three times), China, Austria, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.
Both Sommers practice martial arts. Michael Sommer was taught Tae Kwon Do by black belt Heidi White, who received her instruction from the legendary Chuck Norris, who, in turn, was taught by the brilliant and revolutionary martial arts legend, Bruce Lee.
Veronika Sommer is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of California, Berkeley.
At IGS, Veronika and her husband, Michael Sommer, are currently writing on and researching a variety of journalism and academic projects on the People's Republic of China, including work suggesting an Ombudsman for China, inasmuch as historically China had the world's first Ombudsman and has a current practicing one in Hong Kong. They also continually report on the space efforts of the People's Republic.
At the same time, they are also completing a book on the life of the heroic, controversial American diplomat Hiram Bingham IV. The book, contracted by Aufbau Publlishers, Berlin, is being written in English and German.
The Sommers have been called "Renaissance People" by Seattle's former Mayor Norman Rice, and "among the very best international journalists and presidential consultants" by David Anderson, formerly U.S. Minister to Berlin and Ambassador to Yugoslavia, and Director of the Aspen Institute, Berlin.
Of the many feature interviews the Veronika and Michael Sommer have done for major international newspapers, magazines, and television and radio networks throughout the world, UN Ambassador and presidential candidate and UN Ambassador Averill Harriman, celebrated author Christopher Isherwood, and Michael Harrington, author of The Other America, have described the interviews the Sommers did with them for The Los Angeles Times and CBS respectively in identical language: "absolutely the best interview done of me in my career!"
The couple was among the first to predict dramatic changes in political campaigning and international politics generally in a 2004 speech before a research seminar at the British Parliament as well as "the coming new frontiers in terrorism, chiefly in the form of cyber-terrorism."
To date, in U.S. political campaigning, Veronika and Michael Sommer have been in the forefront of noting the internet's enormous advantages in fund-raising, political communication and organization, as has been evidenced in its dramatic and highly successful uses by, among other candidates, such website pioneering presidential pioneers as Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vermont) and his campaign manager, Joe Crispi, in 2004, and in the 2008 presidential campaign by Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas).
In 2006, as part of their continuing research and writings on the impact of the internet, the Sommers created a special edition of The Journal of E-Government on electronic government in China. The work followed their 2003 text, co-written with Gregory Curtin and also published by Haworth Press, The World of E-Government. This pioneering book is now widely used in university classrooms throughout the world, details current practices in electronic government by the leading countries in the field. In 2003 and 2004, the Sommers served as principal researchers for the United Nations' first two surveys of electronic government activities by its 191 member countries (United Nations E-Government Surveys for 2003 and 2004).
In addition to their current research and writing on the world-wide political usage of the internet and an Ombudsman for China, their research at UC Berkeley had previously focused on the activities of U.S. diplomat Hiram Bingham IV in Marseille prior to World War II. While serving there as Vice Consul in 1940, it is estimated that Bingham saved more than a thousand of Europe's greatest intellectuals and artists who were trying to escape from the Nazis. Bingham's heroic but controversial actions were honored by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in a special ceremony in which he posthumously awarded one of the State Department's highest awards for courage to the Bingham family. Bingham was further commemorated by his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp.
As journalists, Veronika and Michael Sommer began their research and writing on these and other subjects on the invitation of several of the America's leading universities. They were appointed Visiting Scholars at the Shorenstein Center of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2000. This was followed by a two-year appointment as Visiting Fellows in History at Yale University. Visiting Scholar appointments followed in the Department of History at Columbia University, and a two-year appointment followed as Visiting Scholars in both History and Political Science at Stanford University as well as an appointment together with a post-Visiting Scholar appointment as Visiting Fellows in National Security and Politics at the East-West Center, Honolulu.
In recent months, they have based some of journalism, presidential consulting and writing activities at UC Berkeley, following their appointment some years ago by Director Nelson Polsby as Visiting Scholars at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.
For their research and writing on their book on Hiram Bingham IV, Veronika and Michael Sommer received coveted appointments as Leon Feuchtwanger Memorial Writing Fellows at the University of Southern California, site of the Feuchtwanger Papers. Feuchtwanger was saved from a Nazi concentration camp by Bingham, and the prestigious international fellowship prize honors the great German novelist and Noble Prize candidate in Literature.
For their research on electronic government in China, they received a Federal appointment as well as a second follow-up appointment as Visiting Fellows in National Security and Politics at the East-West Center, Honolulu. While at the Center, Veronika Sommer also began research on the impact of information technology on China. Her research will be completed in late 2008.
The Sommers, when serving as senior political advisors, have advised the campaigns of nine U.S. Presidents or presidential candidates, Republicans and Democrats, as well as three Prime Ministers of Great Britain, and three Chancellors of Germany.
They have either served as political consultants or as broadcast or print journalists covering the campaigns of U.S. Presidents for many years. For a few years, the Sommers were Senior Partners of Sheinkopf Ltd., New York City. The firm helped to create and produce the television spots for the successful 1996 campaign of President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
The couple has also advised U.S. governors, Senators, and several major-city mayors. They have advised NGOs throughout the world.
In recent years, Veronika and Michael Sommer have advised several leading European institutes and foundations, including the Aspen Institute, Berlin, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Germany. Veronika Sommer has been a frequent speaker for the U.S. State Department and has frequently lectured on American presidential campaigns, particularly issues relating to women, for the State Department in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.
While in Great Britain, the couple served as Visiting Professors and Senior Research Fellows at the Center for Corporate and Public Affairs, Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K.
As Senior Partners, Sheinkopf Communications, in its former name as Austin-Sheinkopf, managed the presidential campaign of Reverend Jesse Jackson in 1988. In 1989, the Sommers co-founded Berlin Associates, a public policy firm that advised European political leaders, major political parties and NGOs. In that capacity, they advised all three major political parties in Great Britain and both major political parties in Germany.
Veronika Sommer's international civic consulting projects have ranged from the World Wildlife Fund in Rome and the Moscow Clinic for Better Health to a major immigration project for the Berlin Senate.
As journalists, the Sommers were present to cover many major news stories. These include the fall of the Berlin Wall, the touchdown of the first U.S. Challenger mission at Edwards Air Force Base; and the two space robot missions to Mars.
The Sommers were present as the guest of British Governor Lord Christopher Patten, now President of Oxford University, during the final lowering of the British Union Jack in Hong Kong.
The couple were among the first Americans called in as senior advisors by the top staff of Soviet Prime Minister Gorbachev to begin exploratory talks on the first cooperative trade deals with the America.
They have served as guest commentators for many newspapers ranging from The Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Weekly, The Houston Chronicle, Paris Match, to The Jordan Times. They have written and commented upon a wide range of subjects for newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and radio and television networks in the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. Their research has appeared in Newsweek and The Washington Post, among many publications, and they have appeared as commentators on breaking news stories on CNN, Fox and most of the world's major television networks.
They have also recently written widely on the media and terrorism, gender issues, the first Chinese manned space missions (e.g.,"The Third Man in the Fourth Battlefield,"with Joan Johnson-Freese, Ph.D., Professor, Naval War College), and many advances in international electronic government (e.g.,"America at the E-Government Crossroads" with Gregory Curtin.).
Michael Sommer was among the first journalists and presidential advisors to warn of and take very seriously potential terrorist threats to America, more than 20 years before 9/11. Veronika Vis-Sommer has followed strong suit with her speeches and writings on cyber-terrorism.
The Sommers have considerable experience in space and the aeronautic sciences, in which they have patented inventions themselves. As reporters, they have covered many American space shots. They covered the landing of the first Challenger mission at Edwards Air Force Base as well as the first landings of the Mars robotic missions. They were in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena when the missions landed and were celebrated.
The Sommers, with Joan Johnson-Freese of the Naval War College, continue to write on the Chinese space programs, and were the first U.S. liaisons to the initiation of the German space program.
Veronika Sommer received her Ph.D. degree in literature and sociology, summa cum laude, from the Free University of Berlin.
She was born in Germany of Dutch parents. She holds three B.A. degrees from German universities and did graduate study in Great Britain and Switzerland. She holds a M.A. in English Literature.
She began her career in journalism with the Rheinische Post in Germany, and as an election coverage producer for BBC Worldwide and SFB Radio Berlin.
In one of her books, she wrote a wide-ranging critical analysis of the work of Austrian political activist, dramatist and Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek (Peter Lang Publishers). Her pioneering analyses of the works of Jelinek was used and cited by the Nobel Committee in awarding Ms. Jelinek the prize, and she received a letter of appreciation from the Nobel laureate.
The Sommers have been visiting scholars at universities and institutes throughout the world. They have been Lady Jane Franklin Visiting Scholars at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and Research Scholars at Cardiff University. They were appointed Research Scholars at the Gramsci Institute, Rome and were Visiting Scholars in Politics at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Both Sommers are Senior Commentators, Contributing Editors, and Members of the Board of The Journal of Public Affairs (Henry Stewart Press, U.K.). They are Senior Commentators for The Journal of Political Marketing, which they helped to found. They also founded and were, until recently, Managing Editors of The Journal of e-Government (both published by Haworth Press).
They have been speakers for the U.S. Department of State, under whose auspices they have spoken in Europe and most recently in Australia, New Zealand (2000), and Mexico (2002).
The Sommers have been the honored guests of the leaders and governments of France (twice), Germany, Russia (three times), China, Japan, Austria, Australia (three times), New Zealand and Mexico.
Veronika Sommer's cultural exchange trip to China as a guest of that government in 1986 and a member of the German government's cultural delegation, prompted a lifelong interest in China's history, politics and culture. She has continued this interest as a Visiting Fellow in National Security and Politics at the East-West Center, Hawaii.
Both Sommers practice martial arts. Michael Sommer was taught Tae Kwon Do by Heidi White, who received her black belt from the legendary Chuck Norris, who, in turn, was taught by the brilliant and revolutionary martial arts legend, Bruce Lee, while Veronika Vis-Sommer teaches T'ai Chi Ch'uan and T'ai Chi Kung, an outgrowth of her great interest in Chinese medicine and culture. She was taught by internationally renowned third generation Grand Master Kai Ying Tung and his son, Master Ch'en-Wei Tung.
The Sommer's have written several books and many articles. Their most recent research publications may be found by scanning Google on the internet.
They have two sons, Matthew, a graduate of Edinburgh University in Scotland, internationally known anti-hacking and cyber-terrorism expert, and an executive with Google; and Montgomery, a popular professional musician and group leader who plays engagements in Las Vegas. He is also a guitar instructor and album recording artist.
The Sommers try to be creative as time allows and in her spare time, Veronika has co-designed many bronze sculptures with Raimund Schmelter of Geldern, Germany, one of the world's leading bronze artists.
The couple lives in Pacific Palisades, California
David Wyles is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter and former journalist.
He is a graduate of Yale, studied philosophy at Oxford University and film at UCLA and the American Film Institute.
A former Wall Street Journal Fellow, Wyles was a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a writer for Time, Inc.
He has written screenplays for HBO, CBS, NBC, Warner's, Paramount, and Turner.
He did the research for the Oscar-winning documentary about the Vietnam War, "Hearts and Minds" and was the line producer for "Pumping Iron," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Presently, he is finishing up last-minute rewrites on a screenplay for a major upcoming feature film about current politics in America.